With wedding season fast approaching, I'd like to issue a challenge to the many couples about to tie the knot. Before you say "I do," take a moment to ask “How are your finances?”
Money is such an emotional issue that many soon-to-be-married couples avoid it. Yet it's an essential topic for conversation. Getting on the same page before you enter into a marriage or life partnership may be the best gift you can give each other.
The following list should help start that conversation. Before you begin, choose a time and place that are conducive to a serious discussion. Make sure you're both willing to talk and listen without judgment. Should things get heated, take a break and come back to the discussion when you've both calmed down.
- Communicate your values and ideas on money. Ask each other the following questions: Who taught you how to manage money, or was that something you taught yourself? Are you a spender or a saver? Do you need money in savings to feel secure? What's a good way to use extra money? Do you spend with a plan or on impulse?
- Talk about how you will handle your finances once you're married. Will you have joint checking and savings accounts? Will you have separate accounts? Who will be responsible for which bills? Who will make bill payments?
- Review your credit reports. If one of you has substantial credit card debt, the other needs to know. If one of you filed for bankruptcy, the other needs to know. If there are any past delinquencies, you need to understand why and how they won’t happen again. Keep in mind that debts obtained before marriage remain the sole responsibility of the party who incurred them.
- Estimate what each of you will need to pay on debts every month. Student loan debt can be a large payment, and you will need to plan together how best to pay down all debts.
- Reveal if you have co-signed any loans or have any other financial relationship with someone else.
- Discuss financial goals for the next five years and long-term goals. Do you want to buy a house? If so, when? Will you save money for college expenses if you have any children? Do you want to retire early, and what are you willing to give up to do so?
Please write to me at email@example.com and let me know if you've accepted the challenge. I'd like to know how it went for you and your betrothed.